Mariners no-hitter Getty

What they’re saying about the Mariners’ combined no-hitter

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Kevin Millwood, Charlie Furbush, Stephen Pryor, Lucas Luetge, Brandon League and Tom Wilhelmsen combined for a no-hitter in a 1-0 victory over the Dodgers last night.

It was the 10th combined no-hitter in major league history and the first since six Astros combined to no-hit the Yankees on June 11, 2003. It was the third no-hitter thrown by the Mariners in their 35-year history and their first since Chris Bosio did it on April 22, 1993 against the Red Sox.

Here’s some reaction to the unique feat:

Jeff Sullivan of Lookout Landing: “It’s such an anti-history way of going about things. So much is lost when a guy who’s throwing a no-hitter has to be removed. Much of the charm is gone, and the fans watching resign themselves to the reality that they won’t see one guy turn in a legendary performance. But then you remove the guy who replaced the first guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the second guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the third guy, and then you remove the guy who replaced the fourth guy, and you go all the way back around again to being incredible. The Mariners have a twelve-man pitching staff. Half of them combined to no-hit a team.”

Jesus Montero, via the Associated Press: “He was surprised,” said Montero, referring to Wilhelmsen. “He didn’t know. … I jumped on him and I was like, `Hey, it’s a no-hitter!’ And he went, `What?!” And then he was so happy after that. He was so focused on the game. That’s what happened.”

Tim Wilhelmsen, via ESPN.com: “Well, I mean, I knew what was going on. But no, I have a brain fart every so often and just focused so hard on getting one thing done. It’s not like you forget, but it’s like you put it off to the side. And then it’s like, ‘Holy cow, we just did it,’ and Montero is in my arms. And then it’s, ‘Holy Cow, we just did it!’ ‘HOLY COW, WE JUST DID IT!’ Something like that. It’s there; it just takes a minute to get it, pick it out and place it in.”

Kevin Millwood, via MLB.com: “I’m excited, I’m excited for all these guys who came into the game out of the bullpen. I guess it’s a little bit more exciting for those guys when they can be a part of it. I wasn’t very happy when I came out of the game, and it took me a couple innings to get a little excited about it, but those guys got all the tough outs.”

Brendan Ryan, via MLB.com: “Wow, he can really fly,” said Ryan, referring to the close play on Dee Gordon in the ninth inning. “I got it cleanly, I got to it quick, I thought, and got it out of my glove. It was a decent throw. I’m still shocked it was that close.”

Jim Caple of ESPN.com: “Consider this: The man who started it (Kevin Millwood) is a 37-year-old journeyman who watched the final three innings on TV in the clubhouse while undergoing treatment for a sore groin. He didn’t even get the win because the game was still tied at 0 when he left. The winning pitcher (Stephen Pryor) is a 22-year-old rookie who was in Triple-A Tacoma the last time the Mariners played a game in Seattle. And the reliever on the mound at the end (Wilhelmsen) is a former bartender. Man, baseball is great, isn’t it?”

Joe Blanton signs with the Nationals

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 07:  Joe Blanton #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on June 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
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Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals have signed Joe Blanton to a one-year contract.

Surprised it took this long given that Blanton was excellent out of the pen for the Dodgers last year, posting a 2.48 ERA and 80/26 K/BB ratio over 80 innings. But even if it’s a late signing, it’s not a terrible one: Blanton will receive a $4 million salary and will have the chance to make an additional $1 million in performance bonuses. UPDATE: The salary structure is kind of odd. Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports that Blanton will get only $1 million in 2017, plus some incentives, and will have $1 million deferred to 2018 and $2 million deferred to 2019.

And he got two weeks off work. Bonus!

Baseball doesn’t need gimmicks to draw in young fans. It just needs to be baseball.

MESA, AZ - MARCH 6: Chicago Cubs ball and bat bags are seen prior to the game between the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds on March 6, 2015 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. The Reds defeated the Cubs 5-2. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
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MESA, AZ — I didn’t set out to ask Robin Mitchell about pace of play, rules changes, how to best execute an intentional walk or how to turn kids into baseball fans. I was interviewing her about other stuff. She brought those topics up on her own.

“I heard them saying that they were not going to throw four pitches for intentional walks anymore,” Mitchell said. “I’d prefer that they throw the pitches because anything can happen. There can be wild pitches. And that’s the exciting part of baseball. That you don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t think we need to speed the game along.”

For most baseball fans such sentiments are tied up with a devotion to baseball purism, tradition or their distaste for change. But such is not the case for Mitchell. While the lifelong Chicago resident went to Cubs games as a child, baseball has not been a lifelong obsession. Rather, it’s something she has become reacquainted with via her two baseball-obsessed boys, Jake, 11, and Bennett, 9.

Mitchell and her boys live on the north side of Chicago and, over the past two years, her sons have developed a huge affinity for the Cubs, almost by osmosis. It was certainly a good time for it, as the Cubs have become winners, and Mitchell allows that since Jake and Bennett didn’t “have to suffer through some of the more challenging times,” their attraction to the game became easier. It’s clear to her, however, that they are not going to be fair weather fans.

“They love baseball,” she said, implying that it’s not just homerism for the current World Series champions at work. They love the sport itself and began to play it too. It’s not easy for Mitchell to say whether their playing led to their fandom or vice-versa. It all sort of happened at once, with each reinforcing the other.

I asked her what about baseball, specifically, appeals to them. What, at a time when Rob Manfred and everyone connected to the game is worried about the sport’s seeming inability to attract and hold on to young fans, keeps Mitchell’s sons engaged.

For them, it seems to be all about accessibility and engagement. Being in Chicago and living close to a park is important, as is having all of the games available on TV. Also important to them: appealing young stars.

“It helps that the Cubs have some really nice players who seem like really nice guys,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes we see them in the neighborhood even. Ben Zobrist. Anthony Rizzo. David Ross. Whenever we’ve seen them out or at an event they’re always kind and polite and give the boys encouraging words.”

But isn’t baseball . . . boring? And slow? Don’t kids like video games and kinetic action? Doesn’t a 19th century pastime with a sometimes turgid pace turn off 21st century kids?

“No, are you kidding?!” Mitchell said. “We don’t leave the game before it’s over. That’s what we do. It doesn’t matter what the score is. We love the pace of baseball. In the world of electronics, with everything moving really fast and being gimmicky, there’s something I think that my boys and I find appealing about baseball. I can share it with them and we all just slow down.”

As we talked, Jake and Bennett ran around a field just outside the Cubs clubhouse, playing catch and practicing rundowns with a couple of other boys they just met. Mitchell and I spoke for nearly a half hour. They played the whole time and looked like they wouldn’t stop unless or until their mother dragged them away.

We have spent a lot of time lately talking about how to fix baseball. I don’t know that anyone has made a compelling case that, despite the challenges the game faces, it is actually broken. Robin Mitchell doesn’t think it is. Neither do Jake and Bennett. While Rob Manfred and Joe Torre propose increasingly unorthodox methods for speeding things up, some pretty basic and longstanding factors are continuing to attract young fans:

  • The availability of games almost every day;
  • An exciting and successful local team;
  • The charisma of baseball’s biggest stars;
  • The ability for kids to play the game themselves and to emulate those stars on a little league field; and
  • The chance for parents to share their love of baseball with their children.

These are the factors which have always made up baseball’s appeal. Perhaps Major League Baseball should concentrate on ensuring that those factors, which are proven to draw in fans, persist and flourish. Perhaps they should concentrate less on chasing hypothetical fans via gimmicks aimed at fixing problems which are far-from-established.